FFF 2015 Day 2 Sunshine Superman

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SunshineSupermanSunshine Superman
Day one of the FFF ends with another absolutely stellar documentary. Sunshine Superman tells the story of Carl Boenish, the founder of BASE parachute jumping, and his wife Jean who would do many of the jumps with him. BASE is an acronym for Buildings, Antennas, Spans and Earth–the four main categories of places where a parachutist can jump without having to be in an aircraft. Carl was one of those infectious and charismatic personalities who have an impact on everyone they meet. He was intelligent, thorough and careful, yet he engaged in activities that most people believe are dangerous and some call downright crazy.

Since Carl was an avid filmer, most of his parachuting was captured on footage that was used to make this documentary. From that footage, it was obvious that Carl lived his life to the fullest; whether it was petitioning Yosemite National Park to allow BASE jumping (which didn’t even have the name “BASE jumping” back then until Carl invented it) or being interviewed by TV hosts who would often marvel at his daredevil exploits.

This documentary, like Carl and Jean’s BASE jumps, was skillfully crafted and very fun to watch. Carl’s wife and jumping companion, Jean, was a great narrator both in the archival footage and the modern day reminiscence about her exploits with Carl. Perhaps the movie is best summed up by the wonderful interview I had at the end of the movie with one of the theatre patrons…

Reactions From the Audience
A man is walking out of the theatre with two young boys. I ask him about his reaction to the movie…

“I’ve been looking forward to this movie coming out for a long time. I’ve known about the making of it for, I think it’s been ten years now. Marah Strauch, the director, is a friend of mine. I was just blown away with how good it turned out. In the credits, I’m Johnny Utah. During the making of it, I did some interviewing with her. Some of the footage we shot was in the film. I’m a professional BASE jumper. I’m just really pleased with how it turned out. It’s definitely a grand tribute to Carl and Jean Boenish and the life they lead and, obviously, the starting of the modern sport of BASE jumping in which Carl is known as the father. It was a great tribute to him, his life and also to Jean Boenish.”

LanceAround, “I notice you have two young men here with you…”

“My name is Zach Winkelkotter…”

“And I’m Trevor Winkelkotter.”

LanceAround: “Are you guys related?”

Johnny Utah: “My real name is John Winkelkotter and my stage name is Johnny Utah in the BASE world.”

LanceAround: “Is it OK if I put their names on the blog?”

Johnny Utah: “Sure.”

LanceAround (To the boys): “What did you think of the movie?”

Zach: “I liked it a lot.”

Trevor: “Uh-huh, Yea!”

Zach: “I really liked the videos and stuff in it.”

LanceAround: “Is this the first time you’ve seen the movie?”

Both: “Yes.”

LanceAround: “People that jump off buildings, Antennas, spans or earth; are they crazy?”

Both: “No.”

LanceAround: “Are you guys going to jump off those things some day?”

Both: “Yes!”

Zach: “It would be really fun!”

LanceAround (to Johnny Utah): “You’ve got some BASE jumpers in the future there.” (Johnny nods.)

Zach: “Thank you very much.”

As we walk away from Johnny Utah, Mrs. LanceAround admonishes me for the question I asked the young boys about whether or not people who jump off buildings are crazy. She said Johnny looked really concerned. I assured her that my acknowledgement that they were future BASE jumpers would take away any concern he might have and he would realize I was just parroting one of the themes that occasionally cropped up in the documentary; the theme that some people believe those who BASE parachute must be a little out of their minds.

As usual, however, it turns out Mrs. LanceAround was absolutely right. A few minutes later I run into Johnny Utah again and he asks me what kind of blog I write. When I tell him it’s a local blog that features the events and attractions around Orlando, he directly asks me if I will be portraying the sport of BASE jumping in a negative way. It’s obvious that he’s sensitive to the issue of how BASE jumpers can sometimes be portrayed. I assure him that I meant no judgement; that my question was only meant to mirror the same question that appeared several times in the documentary when footage was played of old TV interviews.

We have a nice conversation about what it means to live life to the fullest, even if that introduces an element of danger. And people have different levels of threshold for that. I share with Johnny that for me, personally, I could never look off a cliff let alone jump off one. For others, jumping off a cliff is not pushing the edge of the envelope, it’s just the beginning of it.

Sometimes people, like Carl Boenish, die in their pursuit of these kinds of challenges. And others say, “They would not have died if they had not done this.” But I point out to Johnny that this is not a true statement. “Every one dies,” I state. “And for some people, they would much rather die doing what they love and being exactly who they are.” In many ways, that is the essence of this documentary.

 

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